Caught on tape: Bus drivers behaving badly

St Petersburg, Florida - It's like a scene from a reality TV show, but tapes 10 Investigates collected through a public records request show bus drivers aren't always acting in a professional manner. The cameras caught drivers causing a potential danger to those on the bus, as well as those on the road.

One video shows Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) bus driver Donna Cameron fighting with a passenger, where the two fall out of the bus and onto the pavement.

The tape makes it look like it could be a pilot for a show called "Bus Drivers Behaving Badly."

Then there is a video of bus driver Mark Smith screaming at a passenger, "The bus leaves at 8:05, a******!"

PSTA Chief Operating officer James Bradford is not proud of what he sees. "You get those episodes and you cringe and you say, 'What happened?'"

But what might make you cringe is the fact some of these drivers behaving badly are still behind the wheel.

Bradford says, "I'm a fan of the second chance, but not to compromise our public safety."

However James Booth, who rides the bus every day, asks, "At what point do you say it is enough?"

Booth filed a complaint last year accusing driver Donna Cameron of rude behavior. That's the same Donna Cameron who was involved in a physical fight with a different passenger, and subsequently disciplined.

We showed Booth the tape of the fight and explained Cameron was fired for the incident, but got her job back. Booth had to laugh when he learned Cameron is still driving a bus and said, "Wow, if I could be so lucky to have so many chances at my job or anything. To do that to somebody, you belong in jail."

But there are more incidents involving Cameron, including being disciplined for refusing to strap a wheelchair rider into the bus, and not pulling to the bus stop on the right side of the street, which prompted the rider to exit through the window.

Additionally, Cameron was caught using a cell phone on the bus. That according to Bradford, is prohibited: "There is a zero tolerance for any type of cell phone use on a bus."

That would be nice if it was true...

We also found other drivers -- Evelyn Abraham and Karen O'Hara -- using their phones. In fact, O'Hara was caught twice, but she was not fired.

We said to Bradford, "Now her brother is the head of the union, is he not? "

"Her brother is the head of the Tampa Bay Transit Workers Union, that is correct," Bradford replied.

When we asked if that came into play in the fact O'Hara was not fired, Bradford told us, "You know what.. it did not." But then he added, "Of course, he represented her."

Then there is Mark Smith, who was caught cursing and screaming at someone who wanted to get on the bus.

Bradford said, "Initially if someone shows me that video, I say that person cannot work here."

But he is still driving a bus for PSTA, even though there were warning signs before the video of the swearing incident. A PSTA report points out Smith was showing an "angry disposition," "lack of control" and took an "aggressive approach."

Smith was fired, but the driver's union negotiated to have him rehired.

We asked Bradford, "What do you say to the guy at home who says, 'Wow what are you thinking?'"

He told us, "I say to those folk -- not in all these incidences -- some of these folks have been terminated and they are gone. If somebody comes back out there, they've been reformed."

Some might disagree with Bradford's assessment. Meantime we checked with the Hillsborough Transportation Agency (HART) and didn't find the drivers disciplined for similar incidents. It could be because of the fact HART doesn't record audio on its tapes, and if a customer complains the driver was rude, it is harder to prove.


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